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Local News

A bridge, an interchange and more

Open house offers detailed look at Houbolt Road project

The tolls for a future Houbolt Road bridge have not been determined, but they will be comparable to other Illinois tollways, read one sign board Tuesday at an open house.

That was one bit of information a visitor could get at the open house on the Joliet bridge and interchange project.

Others included the expected completion date (fall 2020), the width of a pedestrian and bike path that will cross the Des Plaines River with the bridge
(10 feet) and just how construction might affect access to property.

Kenny Kozak of Plainfield said he was satisfied that he will be able to get in and out of a piece of land he owns along Houbolt Road once construction starts, which is expected to be in the spring.

“You’ve got to look at the overall picture,” Kozak said of the project, which includes widening of Houbolt Road and a new diverging diamond interchange at Interstate 80.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Kozak said. “I think it will make it a lot safer for everybody.”

That’s the idea behind the project, which will create a direct route for trucks between I-80 and CenterPoint Properties’ intermodal parks in Joliet and Elwood. The thinking is that the more trucks that use the toll bridge, the more they will stay off local roads where semitrailers and passenger vehicles don’t always mix well.

Jim Bishop of Elwood called the project “a first step” in the overall efforts to relieve truck congestion. But he questioned the effects of easier access to I-80.

“You’re dumping a lot of additional traffic onto a bottleneck of I-80 and I-55,” Bishop said. “I can see there are a lot of reasons if I were a truck driver to avoid it with the backups that we have.”

One question about the project is whether truckers will pay a toll to use the bridge.

And, how much will the toll be?

“They will be comparable to Illinois tollways. We just haven’t established specific amounts,” said Ken Szeliga, vice president of construction and development with United Bridge Partners.

Will County is the government authority with oversight of the bridge tolls. The agreement setting the first tolls also will set conditions by which any increases can occur in the future, Szeliga said.

United Bridge is CenterPoint Properties’ partner in the newly formed Houbolt Road Extension Joint Venture that is building the $160 million bridge.

The state is financing the new interchange and widening of Houbolt Road between the bridge and I-80. That work is estimated at $20 million to $26 million.

It was not hard to find a contractor mingling in the crowd of people at the open house in the Event Center at Joliet Junior College.

“There are a few,” said Jake Vickers, a Homer Glen resident who works for F.H. Paschen, a Chicago-based company that has regional offices across the eastern half of the U.S.. “I’ve been making notes – see who I have to compete against.”

Vickers said he has seen more public-private partnership ventures on major infrastructure projects as governments seek new ways to finance major bridge and road projects.

But the size of the $160 million
CenterPoint bridge project in Joliet has attracted attention among contractors looking for work in Illinois.

“This is definitely substantial,” said Keith Kazmier with Plote Construction out of Hoffman Estates. “We don’t see much work like this that is privately funded – work of this magnitude.”

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